Friday, 29 July 2011

Romeo and Juliet

Last night my friend and I went to see gb theatrecompany perform Romeo and Juliet at the Peace Gardens in Sheffield. It was the first time a play had been performed there and with the back drop of the town hall it was quite beautiful.

It's been twenty years since I saw the play and I had managed to forget big sections of it which was a pleasant surprise. Plus the actors were excellent. There seemed to be real electricity between Gabriel Thomson and Lucy Wray as the lead characters and the experienced hand of David Davies was clear as Friar Laurence. We were particularly impressed with the sword fighting of Phillip Scott-Wallace (Tibbult) and the comic timing of Joel Sams (Mercutio) even though the jokes were pretty terrible but you have to blame Shakespeare for that.

The only problem really was the venue. Being in the city centre makes it accessible for everyone, but accessibility means buses and buses are flipping noisy. And car alarms are. And drunk people who wolf whistle and swear. Accessible also means people can wander behind the fence at the back and take photographs. Which was a little off putting. As were the teenagers having a chat in the row behind and the lady who briefly completely obscured my view with her umbrella (but I guess you could have had that anywhere).

And of course there was the rain itself which started in the second half. The play involved heavy dresses and a fair amount of lying on the floor which I imagine was cold, wet and pretty uncomfortable.

None of this seemed to affect the actors though. They carried on regardless and were pretty amazing.

Tomorrow is the same actors performing Twelfth Night and I imagine it will be excellent, but I'm a bit worried about it both for the actors and the audience. I'm not sure how relaxed I would have been if the drunken shouting had been ramped up. I think the idea of plays in the Peace Gardens is a good one in some ways, but ideally they needed more screening, a bigger audience and the odd security guard. Maybe it could be much more of a festival one day as David Davies suggested at the beginning.

So if you are looking for a night out please go tonight or tomorrow and support the theatre company. But be prepared to ignore the annoying sounds of Sheffield at night.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Well Tramlines didn't entirely go to plan. We were taking it in turns to go out in the evening and planned to spend loads of time in the day in town and Endcliffe Park listening to music with the kids. That was until Tilly was sick in her dinner, on the top deck of a bus, and subsequently every half an hour for twelve hours. Poor little thing.

That said it still warrants a significant mention. We had a lovely time with the girls in the day on Saturday, and Paul and I did both manage to go out, have a drink and listen to music. Just a shame it wasn't together.

Paul spent most of his evening on Friday in the Frog and Parrot with friends, notably watching Lewis Floyd Henry who he said was staggering. He also managed to see Heaven 17 singing "Temptation" and was in before 3am. He only managed to lose his friends during that last hour so not bad going. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Before the sickness on Saturday we managed to enjoy the family friendly bits of the festival too. We came away with two masks with ribbony bits and two crowns. Once I placated the girls with Hello Kitty sticker books we even managed to sit and listen to some music in the peace gardens. We also took them into the Amococo Luminarium at the cathedral which they thought was like being in a space ship, minus the aliens. It was very popular. The circus skills workshops were down well too, but despite professional assistance Paul still can't juggle.

I met a good friend in the evening and saw Sarah Mac at the Library Theatre. It was a lot calmer start than standing at the main stage would have been and a beautiful one. She is a great pianist with a lovely voice and I was in awe of her songwriting. Brilliant start. Plus we had the added bonus of wine in paper cups.

We then watched most of Shooglenifty on the main stage. They still had the same energy despite being 15 years older than when I last saw them. I wonder if he still drinks Newcastle Brown.

After that we went to the cathedral which weirdly didn't have a queue and did have a bar. We were a bit surprised by this and as a reaction bought a pint glass of wine each. I must admit I thought the venue a bit odd, and uncomfortable, but that's churches for you. But David J Roch was outstanding. Lyrically haunting with a rich beautiful voice. After he had finished we tried to leave with our pints of wine but weren't allowed to leave. It was a hardship we managed to cope with.

We went via chips, a brief view of the Guillemots on the main stage and avoidance of an exploding portaloo, to The Harley where we were transported back to being eighteen...for five minutes and one gin and tonic before we left with a headache. It was the music not the gin. I'm sure they were excellent. The head-banging twenty year old girl seemed to think so.

Obviously I wish we could have ended the festival as we'd planned - the family chilling in Endcliffe on Sunday and then Paul and I out together with friends in the evening. And more importantly I wish Tilly hadn't been so poorly, bless her. But that said it really wasn't a bad way to finish the festival even if it was a bit premature. A great night, a good friend, excellent new music and no queuing!

We spent the next day providing lots of cuddles and tidying the shed. Back to being middle aged.

Friday, 22 July 2011

End of Term

Well that's it for six weeks then. Thank goodness for that, we are all shattered. Although the wants list for the holidays is currently reaching three pages so I can't see it being a relaxing time. If we manage to do everything including learning to spell Mississippi, growing an "Enormous Turnip" and visiting everywhere my children have ever heard of I'll be more than surprised.

Before the mayhem begins is an ideal time to reflect on the last two terms I think. These are the key points:

1. Tilly loves school, has lovely friends and is learning a lot of good stuff. Apart from all the twinkly star brain stuff which was gibberish. She can read, write and add up though and how they get 30 kids doing that I will never know. She is also very good with pritt stick and a variety of food cartons although she doesn't always know what she's made.

2. School reading books are, in general, dire. Apart from the one about the Rabbit Milkman. Can't they all be by Julia Donaldson?

3. I officially love assemblies. Especially the way children project their voice by hollering at the top of their lungs and speaking really quickly. I have managed not to cry at any assemblies so far which is very good for me.

4. Scooters are both brilliant fun and terrifying. It's not just the kids falling off (which happens most days), but I take my life into my own hands just walking across the playground.

5. Various teachers cannot recognise a goat from a sheep, and don't know that Monet died a rather long time ago. I'm not doubting their knowledge in other areas but Zoology and Art history - not a strong point.

6. Tilly still hates Toy Story 3. Ah the last week of term when so much work is done. She genuinely is the only child who I imagine would have rather been doing sums.

Overall though she is incredibly happy which means I am too. AND it's Tramlines this weekend and if Phoebe manages to stay well we all get to enjoy it. Excellent.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


Ever since we applied for planning permission several months ago we have been receiving unsolicited mail. So far it has all been from builders touting for business. Presumably those who have no other work to do so it hasn't made for the best marketing approach.

Then today we had more post, this time offering us excellent, value for money underfloor heating. Really? Surely we are a long way from ordering underfloor heating. And to think I was still focusing on demolition and where we want doors!

Besides we won't be able to afford underfloor heating. Or a floor probably.

That said it's all a bit exciting. Our first builder is coming out tonight with the architect. Eeek!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Just Walking


I am very bad at exercising.

There was a time when I did all sorts of random exercise classes with my best friend. That was in the days when I had time, money and inclination to try stuff out. We used to do pilates regularly, swam and once even went to boxercise (never to be repeated that one though - it was a bit energetic).

For a while we went to speed yoga. Which is exactly what it sounds like, yoga done at great speed. Which is pretty much entirely not the point of yoga.

We also did Tai Chi for a bit which we greatly enjoyed. Although I wouldn't put it in the exercise category. It seemed to be more about learning a very slow dance routine to no music whilst imagining you were holding props.

Come to think of it we rarely chose aerobic exercise classes which probably tells you something about my lack of coordination and general dislike of being out of breath.

We did used to go the gym though. I'll say twice a week, although to be fair it was usually more like once. And sometimes that was really a trip to the sauna followed by coffee and cake in the cafe. But we did pretty regular exercise anyway. I didn't used to be quite as bad as I am now.

I have been a member of almost every gym in Sheffield I think. Esporta (nice but I didn't know anyone else who went), Greens (good although I hated the regular traffic jam to get there), and Virgin (we were enticed by the shiny new facilities and climbing wall, which I then never went up). I'm quite good at joining things, it's the keeping it up where I am spectacularly lacking.

The only thing I have ever done regularly was yoga (not the speedy kind). I continued with it all through my first pregnancy, including shoulder stands (my teacher assured me the baby liked it). Then I had a baby and it was difficult to leave the house. Well that was my excuse.

I started yoga again,and went throughout my pregnancy with Phoebe. Then I had a period at Ladyzone (a gym I had managed to miss first time round). This did work pretty well but in the end I got a bit bored of it.

Last year I had a brief enthusiasm for running and went with my friend. She continued and got pretty good at it, as I gave up and got more and more unfit. Don't ask me why. Laziness I expect. Following that I joined Fitness First which reminded me again why I am awful at cardio in gyms. And why I don't wear lycra.

I have even lost my focus for yoga which I am determined to get back as I would say it's about the only exercise I have ever actually enjoyed.

Anyway the sight of my husband walking up hills, cycling and running in the evenings has finally made me feel guilty. We can't afford for me to join another gym (and anyway surely I'd be recognised) so I put my trainers back on this morning and went for a run. Seven and a half whole minutes of running interspersed with minutes of walking. I was knackered. The running was bad enough but I'd chosen to do it at Graves Park which is far too hilly and full of dogs.

But at least I did something. The internet tells me I should publicly log what I do to spur me on by providing encouragement from my friends and family. Or so I am too embarrassed not to keep going. Either way I'm blogging about it. Whether I actually do anymore exercise this week remains to be seen. But Paul's gone for a jog so I might be guilted into ten minutes on the wii fit.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

This week in brief

1. I still haven't done any exercise. Paul went up a hill in the rain. Tomorrow morning I will consider doing some sit ups.

2. Paul has spent money on boots and socks. I have bought car and home insurance. It really doesn't get more exciting than that.

3. I haven't dared step on the scales to ascertain how much weight I have put on. I am frankly embarrassed by my inability to eat healthily for longer than two days. I blame the fact that Paul is now eating Snickers every half an hour.

4. The house is still a tip. I am offering stickers to anyone who will tidy up bits of it. None of my immediate family seem to be incentivised so I'm broadening my offer to include you lot.

5. We have borrowed so many pairs of pants, trousers and dresses for Phoebe I genuinely can't work out where to return them to. I will be offering pants to everyone we see next week. At least she now wears waterproof shoes.

In more positive news:

1. The architect says that no one has complained about the plans for the extension. If only we could actually get on with something. I need to get rid of some more stuff at least. Does anyone need a large number of espresso cups and cocktail glasses?

2. We have officially given up ballet and Tilly is eyeing up the cheerleading course at school for September. I'm all for it as long as we don't have to buy new pom poms on a regular basis.

I think that's about it. Not exactly a scintillating week. This is me giving myself a boot up the backside. Not a £125 hiking boot though. More a flip flop. What's on TV?

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Well Paul has started his training. He went out on Thursday for a brisk walk. As I understand it he set off up the road and kept turning so he was going as far up as he could. Then he came back down again, via the wine shop. So the bad news is the tee total thing isn't going well. The good news is he went at a fair pace, averaging ten minutes a mile. We know he can keep going for an hour then. So just the following sixteen hours to work on.

I have spent some time since then suggesting to my friends, and their husbands, that they would love to go up hills with Paul to keep him company. We have a few volunteers already so this approach seems to be going well and I am a little reassured by him having a support network. They might manage to steer him past the off licence at the foot of each hill.

His first major outing is tomorrow going up Kinder Scout with Dave. Fortunately Dave seems to know what he's doing which is a bonus. I did suggest Paul should perhaps invest in an OS map for the area but he managed to come back from the outdoors shop without one. Let's hope Dave knows where he's going as well then.

Interestingly Paul did seem to enjoy his time in the shop. Retail therapy can take the weirdest forms. He bought new hiking boots and a pair of £12 socks. Seriously £12. I have paid less than that for shoes. Apparently socks are the key to everything and he'll know he's made the right purchase as soon as he puts them on. I'll wait and give you the sock report tomorrow. Personally I'm concerned that since there are three peaks he will need three pairs and we will need to remortgage simply to afford the hosiery for this trip.

I did ask whether he made a decision on the other purchases required like the rucksack, base layers, walking trousers, gaitors and trekking poles. He said he spent half an hour talking about coats and half an hour talking about boots so he didn't have time. If we carry on at this rate he will spend three and a half hours shopping which so far is considerably more time than he's spent up a hill. I'm trying not to get concerned about this and to see his new enthusiasm for shopping as a bonus. Maybe he'll learn to enjoy clothes shopping with me in due course.

So no wine tonight in preparation for tomorrow. Remind me why I suggested this again?

And in case you would like to sponsor him here's the link ;)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


We went to the library.

Before I rant I am not usually averse to technology. I do get a little testy however when it is supposed to do the job of a human better and quicker but doesn't. I am also rather partial to the idea of humans and find this kind of thing very upsetting. Still a machine with buttons is always popular with the under sixes and since we now have self service in our library we didn't have much choice.

So we now have shiny new machines where you return, renew and check out books all by yourself. Except of course it isn't all by yourself because you firstly need a library assistant to help you with it because it's too flipping hard.

It doesn't sound hard. You put all your books at once on magic shelf and the names magically flash up on the screen confirming you have returned them.

The trouble is we take children's books out mostly and since you can take out twenty on each card and I have two children some weeks the stack and weight of books can get a bit silly. You of course can't fit all of those on at once, even if you could manage to lift them. So we put them on a few at a time. Which was very confusing especially since Phoebe kept moving ones around from pile to pile. Eventually we were convinced we had scanned them all.

Unfortunately the machine didn't think so. Looking at the receipt (oh great an extra bit of paper) three books hadn't been registered. So we went through them again one at a time to find out which it hadn't logged. So that was much quicker then. Then the library assistant took the troublesome books off to be dealt with.

Then we had to lift the other books out and put them on the filing bookcase. I'm a bit anal when it comes to this sort of thing so I had to turn each of the twenty five books round the right way out and right way up to help the library assistants. Who are of course still very much needed in the library not least to explain the stupid machine to idiots like me. Anyway that took even longer.

On departure we scanned the books we wanted to take home. That was straightforward, apart from the doing it in bits and Phoebe pile interfering again. Then the machine gave me a receipt telling me when I need to return them by. So no chance of me being able to find said receipt in a few weeks time when I need to work out when to return them. It's a good job you don't get fined for late children's books. The machine didn't say goodbye or thank you. Utter rubbish.

Our library is lovely and it worked fine. But then who am I to know. You can't halt progress.

Because they are there

A few days ago I, perhaps foolishly, suggested Paul might want to join in with Hallam FM to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pyke and Snowdon over two days for Cash for Kids. He has always wanted to do a physical challenge and he appears to have jumped at the opportunity.

Paul is the eternal optimist. It's one of the many reasons why I love him. I, however, am more on the realist/pessimist borderline and have one or two concerns.

1. Injury
He sprained his ankle playing football four months ago and one ankle is still bigger than the other. He doesn't think this is a problem apart from a possible requirement to wear more hiking socks on one foot than the other. Also his toenail is about to fall off from an earlier football related injury. This makes me shudder. He is not concerned.

2. Fitness Plan
The provided plan suggests he should have started preparing for this walk last March. As it is he only has eight weeks to sort himself out.

Don't get me wrong, he is fit. He cycles every day, used to play football for an hour each week (see above) and is overall very healthy. If you have never met him I should point out he is tall, strong and has no ounce of fat on him. However the plan says he needs to do aerobic exercise more often, and to fit in some strength work.

Ironically we just gave the weights that he bought ten years ago (and never used) to charity. Brilliant timing. Mind you I think the girls can help make up for this. Today he did squats while lifting Phoebe in a pink bucket. I'm not sure this is what the trainers had in mind.

This afternoon he is going to walk home from work quickly carrying a backpack. If it doesn't take him 45 minutes he's going to walk up and down Carterknowle Road. I said he perhaps needed more rugged terrain but he said he has to start somewhere. Hopefully he'll remember to get a pint of milk on the way back. We'll send him up a mountain next week.

He has also suggested he is going tee total until he's done it. If he makes it until Friday without a glass of wine I'll be astonished. I am a little concerned I may have to support him in this part of the challenge.

3. Sustenance
Paul can genuinely eat what he likes. He often eats like a horse and that's when he isn't doing physical exercise. When he exercises he eats even more - the food seems to get converted into energy straight away. Unlike the rest of us, who frankly need a sleep after a big meal, he has always wanted to go and fly a kite or play frisbee. Goodness knows what amount of calories he will need to eat while walking up three mountains, or how he will carry it. Tilly and I are considering making him a sledge to pull the Mars Bars on.

4. The weather
In researching the mountains it seems that the following conditions are likely - rain, gales, poor visibility and snow. So his initial reaction that "it's only walking 42km uphill" seems a little optimistic. He did keep his thermals from Iceland though so that's a cost saving.

5. The cast of Emmerdale
I'm not sure why but some of the cast of Emmerdale are going on the adventure too. This is hilarious. Paul has never even seen an episode of Emmerdale. I hope they find the fact that he won't know who any of them are grounding.

So here the adventure begins. Now knowing the challenge that lies ahead and the limitations in his way you are perhaps even more inclined to sponsor him? He will most definitely do it - he is positive and single minded - but he needs your help to raise lots of money for Cash for Kids. And I need your support too, it's going to be an interesting eight weeks.

If you would like to sponsor him, even as little as a pound would be really appreciated please click here.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Non Competitive Sport

Well yesterday was my first experience of a sports day (well since the torture of being involved in one myself as a child). It was with some trepidation that I walked into the school grounds. My overarching concern being that I would be required to enter some kind of parent race. My days of being able to complete a sprint are well over. Plus I am haunted by a memory of running in a race at primary school, putting my foot into the goal post hole and falling on my face. Maybe that's why they called it the flat race.

Fortunately I needn't have worried as it was a "non competitive sports day". Seemingly gone are the days of the egg and spoon race , the potato race and the getting ready for school race. Obviously the sack race would today be a health and safety nightmare and no-one could even consider the three legged race for fear of injuries and/or offending someone with more than two legs.

So essentially each teacher had to lead (and at times herd) a team of children of varying ages and abilities around a series of activities, scoring points as they went. I felt it was a little much to expect a five year old to be able to clear hurdles, albeit miniature ones, but Tilly was valiant all the same. She also gave a good go at skipping , scoring a goal (against a member of the PTA who probably only turned up to make the coffee), and a variety of other things.

For many of the activities the rules were, shall we say, unclear. It became evident that the teachers had a different view of "non competitive sports day". At points the rules were being tailored as they saw fit and for various activities the children were asked to add up their own score (which routinely then went into the hundreds). I'm not saying they were lying about their scores but I think it's hard for a five year old to concentrate on catching a ball in a cup, chase it all over the playground and remember how many times they caught it at the same time. A friend's son came over at one point and asked his mum what number he should say as he couldn't keep count. She suggested "8" and the teacher said "no it must have been more like 20".

It was also somewhat interesting to watch the supporters. Most parents, like me, looked embarrassed as they shouted out encouraging words and gave a ripple of applause when their child passed through a hula hoop. A large number of fathers seemed to appear from nowhere to join in at the "Beat the Goalie" activity. One father felt the need to firmly stress to his daughter the need to "stay behind the line" when taking her throw otherwise her "points wouldn't count". Which was ironic during an activity where all the children threw their darts at the teacher simultaneously and were making up their own scores anyway.

At the end of the sports day the scores were added up. I think there may have been a steward's enquiry about one activity. Sufficed to say many of the parents were unamused that the Tigers scored over 300 hundred points to the Squirrels' 26. I saw several taking photos of the score board. Presumably to write a stern letter to the head.

Tilly's team won. So it wasn't overall "non competitive" but the event was firmly focused on team work which was actually quite lovely.

Anyway all the children all got a free ice pop and went away happy. They seemed to really enjoy themselves. I suspect the teachers were harbouring much more of a "non competitive grudge" and the discussions in the staff room I suspect could have been frosty.

Me, I was just happy I stayed upright and didn't embarrass myself or more importantly my children.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


We made the somewhat rash decision to eat in a restaurant this afternoon. In part because Paul felt guilty about the number of times the girls used their loo at the street market, but mostly because they ran out of rosemary and sea salt bread at their market stall and he wanted to try it. I say the decision was rash because we always eat in family friendly pizza restaurants, or very quick service carveries. That wasn't always the case of course, but that was in a time before children, when you didn't have to eat at breakneck speed and weren't terrified about the future of the crockery on the table.

We went to eat at Artisan in Crosspool. It's a beautiful grown up restaurant so we entered with slight trepidation bringing Jasmine the Disney Princess and a flower fairy in with us. I stashed our market haul (rhubarb and ginger preserve for Dad, marmalade, granary and treacle loaf and three types of exciting cheese) under the table. Clearly we were keen to have a palate expanding afternoon.

We were the only people in the restaurant which wasn't really a surprise at 4.30pm. They were totally happy to have us there with the girls and I didn't get the impression that was only because they were empty. We entered a discussion about food and established early on that the only thing Tilly and Phoebe really wanted was a yorkshire pudding each.

We ordered the food, including yorkshire puddings, and Paul decided, a little unwisely since he was a bit sun affected, to order beer. Maybe the effect of the beer was the reason he spent most of the meal laughing.

The usual agony of pre food childsplay commenced and they did mess about a bit. Paul ended up with seventeen pieces of cutlery but the large quantity of glassware remained intact so all in all pretty good.

The food started arriving. Two types of bread, houmous, crackers and beetroot soup in shot glasses. The girls ate mostly bread but it was all very tasty.

Starters followed with mushrooms on brioche for us and an enormous yorkshire pudding with gravy each for the girls. Most of the yorkshire pudding ended up inside them, with only a limited amount splattering the tablecloth and some landing in the lit candle table decoration.

I have to say it was all delicious, the only problem was the food kept coming. Roast chicken for the girls, pork for Paul and fish pie for me. And then loads of veg arrived along with four enormous yorkshire puddings. We were left questioning why the waitress hadn't warned us that yorkshire puddings were a key part of every meal at the restaurant. By this time even our hardy girls were a little yorkshire pudding weary.

We left before dessert. After eighteen rounds of "I Spy with My Little Eye" the eye that Tilly insists on closing during the game became a bit tired and Phoebe still hadn't worked out that a clue wasn't actually the answer.

At the end the waitress came with a special crumb brush which she valiantly used to clean the tablecloth. She diplomatically didn't mention the vast pools of gravy.

All in all it was a lovely experience. Even though I saw the inside of the ladies loos a bit too often since Phoebe decided to break the habit of a lifetime and request to use it at every available opportunity.

I really hope Paul and I can go back at a more reasonable time of night for a grown up meal. One where I don't have to think of things beginning with b.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Neighbour from hell

Before anyone gets too worried that I'm about to globally criticise my neighbours, I mean me.

You know when you kicked the ball over the wall when you were little, there was always a neighbour that you were terrified of? The one you knew you ought to knock on the door of to ask for your ball back, but considered risking legging it round to get it quickly in the hopes that he might not notice. I could now have that reputation.

Last night a boy from across the road knocked a tennis ball into my neighbours garden. He opened our gate and let himself onto our drive before climbing on some bags of garden rubbish (still uncollected I might add) to try and climb over the wall to get it back. Something clicked in me. Firstly I knocked on the window, looked stern and gesticulated at the boy to get off my drive. Dear lord what has happened to me.

THEN I actually went outside and reprimanded him. I (calmly I hasten to add) used words like "my property", and suggested he should respect peoples "property" and "knock on the door to ask for his ball back". He looked genuinely taken aback that I had spoken to him at all let alone had told him off.

All in all the conversation went ok. No-one shouted and he looked embarrassed. I realise now he didn't apologise but I think that would have been pushing it.

Maybe I had been put on edge by the youths who ran over the bonnets of a neighbour's car on Thursday night. I went round to ask what happened when I saw him polishing his car in the morning. He said that the perpetrator was only a size 6 which was fortunate otherwise the damage could have been worse. Apparently it will polish out. Good job we have Poirot living down the road.

But I am unsettled. My outburst is clearly an indication that I am middle aged and becoming (or already) intolerant. I should be thinking "cuh, little scamp" shouldn't I? Or maybe that would require it to be the Fifties. Anyway I am resolved as least to not bang on the window again. I freaked myself out. Next time I'll send Paul. Who would probably just climb over the wall and help them get it back.